Sad, isn’t it, that one of hockey’s greatest-ever warriors still has to pay admission to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
On the night the Toronto Maple Leafs honored Doug Gilmour’s No. 93, I still find it hard to believe this trooper – one of the top two or three players in the NHL for a couple of seasons in the 1990s – hasn’t been recognized by the Hall of Fame.
Eligible since 2006, Gilmour didn’t make the grade that induction season despite the fact he’s 16th all-time in NHL scoring (12th all-time in assists), excelled in a two-way defensive role for many years in St. Louis and was a critical piece in the puzzle of Calgary’s only Stanley Cup victory in 1989.
Patrick Roy and Dick Duff were inducted that year. There’s room to induct four players, but the Hall’s selection committee didn’t see fit to roll out the red carpet for Gilmour, nor other top candidates such as Pavel Bure, Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso and Phil Housley. And the Hall’s bylaws prevent us from hearing how close any of the rebuffed candidates came.
Up until then, super-scorer and playoff performer Glenn Anderson stood as the top player not in the Hall of Fame. He has since been inducted, leaving that dubious distinction to Gilmour. The Kingston, Ont., native didn’t stand a chance for induction in 2007 because of the strongest first-year field ever of Mark Messier, Al MacInnis, Scott Stevens and Ron Francis.
Gilmour promoters were hoping 2008 would be the second-chance induction year for Gilmour. The committee opened the door for Anderson and Igor Larionov and left the other two chambers blank. It doesn’t look any better in 2009 when the June announcement will include Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and one of either Luc Robitaille, Alex Mogilny or Dave Andreychuk.
Clearly, at least a few members of the committee aren’t convinced Gilmour is worthy even though his statistics are far better than many other Hall of Famers with fewer Stanley Cups and award credentials. There are 18 members on the selection committee. A minimum 14 approval votes are required to make the grade. Bylaws prevent selection committee members from talking about their opinions or anything to do with the voting process, so it’s all speculation.
Some committee members might be penalizing Gilmour for the way he conducted himself off the ice. He had an indiscretion with the legal system early in his career and lived a lifestyle that was anything but that of a choirboy. That’s a big reason why Dino Ciccarelli – the top goal-scoring non-Hall of Famer with 608 goals – Dale Hunter and perhaps even Bure, Barrasso and Housley aren’t in the Hall, either. They weren’t model citizens in varying ways.
But of course, this is all speculation.
Gilmour will eventually get in the Hall, but it may take another five years or so. The selection committee does turn over members every couple of years and there is a healing process for psychological wounds. Until that time, we’ll just have to remember Gilmour as a uniquely skilled and productive warrior who in his prime could take control of a team, inspire it to overachieve, get back up and do it all over again two days later.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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